Some 25,000 people marched through the streets of the capital, Dublin, on Saturday, in protest against the costs of a banking crisis that has buried Ireland in debt.
According to police figures, some 6,000 people also demonstrated in Cork and Sligo. Meanwhile, crowds of 2,000 also turned out in Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions estimated that some 110,000 people demonstrated nationwide. The ICTU, which represents nearly a fifth of Ireland's 3.1 million person electorate, had organized the demonstrations under the slogan "Lift the Burden."
Trade unions skeptical of ECB deal
On Thursday, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny had clinched a long-awaited deal with the European Central Bank (ECB), which eased a 48-billion-euro ($64 billion) debt burden from the bailout of Anglo Irish Bank.
The deal stretches Ireland's payments out over 40 years and cuts the country's borrowing needs by 20 billion euros over the next decade. But trade unionists on Saturday remained skeptical that the ECB deal would help Ireland become solvent again.
"It would be fatal for people to believe this issue is now resolved and we can all move on," David Begg, the general secretary of the ICTU, said during the protests in Dublin.
"At the onset of the crisis, Ireland had one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in Europe," he said. "The difference between then and now is due entirely to Ireland socializing bank debt at the behest of the ECB, to save the European banking system."
Ireland was forced to guarantee the debt of six national banks after a real estate bubble burst in 2008. Unable to carry the burden, Dublin ultimately sought a 67.5-billion-euro sovereign bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in 2010.
slk/ch (AP, Reuters)